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On Returning To Work

Made by me, yes me!

Life is like a tray of cupcakes and actually it doesn’t really matter which one you choose because invariably things will work out one way or another. This is what I’ve learnt in the last 6 months.  We can be as exacting and careful as we like in the choices we make, but fundamentally we can’t mitigate for things that happen to us out of the blue. If you’d told me 6 months ago that I’d be starting a new job next week, a proper grown up job again, I’d have smiled politely but have known, unequivocally, that it wouldn’t happen.  Because at the time it wasn’t what I wanted. But now it is. Funny eh?

I have learnt a few more things this summer.

1. My children need some degree of independence. I want them to grow up knowing that they can achieve great things on their own merit and that whilst it’s very nice to have a mother, they can stand on their own two feet. That statement is the result of much emotional baggage that I have been carrying around for many years. I may have articulated it badly, but the intention is entirely good.

2. I enjoy working. Ever since my mother died when I was 16 years old I was determined to work and be successful at what I did. That has never died, it just got drowned in a sea of despondency and frustration (and chronic sleep-deprivation).

3. I am a multi-tasker. To all the men reading this (hi Dad) this is not some feminist claim to be better than you, it is simply a fact. I get bored unless I am spinning several plates. It’s how I’m built.

4. I enjoy wearing nice clothes that don’t always have the remains of Tilly’s breakfast on them.

5. I am actually a pretty decent mother. I just have low days like everyone else, it doesn’t mean I am failing my children. They love me and I love them. We will be okay.

6. I don’t have to do everything myself. There are people who can help me and I intend to use them.

I think the biggest challenge I have though is managing the mother guilt. I have read books on this ad infinitum, I have read and appreciated all the positive and supportive comments from other bloggers and  I have, of course, listened to the advice from my best friends and family.  But there is something inherent in us as mothers that will always be there. Guilt comes with the birth of your first child. The baby comes out swiftly followed by a bucket load of guilt. And despite our best efforts the bucket will never be entirely empty.

Mother guilt is not just about working, it’s about everything you do for your kids and everything you know or think you don’t do. It’s about making them a rubbish pack lunch for nursery because you forgot to buy Hula Hoops and you’ve run out of butter for the sandwiches. It’s about putting them in a coat that only has one button because they all fell off and you didn’t get round to sewing them back on. It’s about putting the TV on for 1/2 hour so you can just have a cup of tea and a natter with a friend. It’s about losing your temper and feeling hideous afterwards. And yes it is also about leaving them with a childminder while you go to work.

The only way I know to manage it is to make the time you are with them the best it can be. But life’s not one big party and kids (well my kids) just want ‘normal’. They know that ‘mummy days’ involve going to Sainsbury’s, maybe doing some cooking, watching some tv, playing with each other while Mummy does some housework, then playing with Mummy when she’s finished. It’s not full-on activity, I’m a mum not a party entertainer. I loved my mother with intensity but I don’t ever remember painting with her and I’m not damaged by that.

So this is a new chapter in this Mummy’s life. I start a new job next week, an opportunity I couldn’t miss.  I’m ready for it now. Wish me luck.

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